Charles Hotham

From eurekapedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Sir Charles Hotham, Courtesy Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection
The Old Government House, Toorak
Federation University Historical Collection (Cat. No. 224
Ballarat Reform League Deputation to Governor Charles Hotham from The Revolt at Eureka’ by R. Wenban, Schools Publishing House, 1959.


Sir Charles Hotham was born on 14 January 1806, at Thornham, a small village in Norfolk, England. He was the son of Rev. Frederick Hotham and Ann Elizabeth Hodges. Sir Charles Hotham married Jane, who was the great-niece of Lord Nelson, on 10 December 1853 before they left Victoria.[1]

The East Riding County Record Office hold records pertaining to Hotham. [2] Following the resignation of Charles La Trobe in April 1854, former Naval Officer Sir Charles Hotham was appointed Lieutenant Governor. Correspondence from East Riding Record Office dated 1853-55 with the Duke of Newcastle on the offer of post as Governor of Victoria includes three letters after Hotham's arrival in Victoria, one dated 15 August 1855 to his brother referring to the financial affairs of the colony, the gold and land questions, and his relations with the Victorian Government. [3] His eventual arrival in June 1854 was celebrated in Melbourne and gold diggers from across the Victorian goldfields waited anxiously to see what reforms their new governor would support.[4]

Shortly after his arrival, the Lieutenant Governor and Lady Hotham visited the goldfields, where they were generally well received by the diggers, who voiced their concerns with the hope that the new governor would make beneficial changes to the licensing system.[5] A letter book held at the East Riding County Record Office dated 24 June 1854 to 6 October 1855 contains despatches from the Secretaries of State dealing with punishment of convicts from Van Diemen's Land, Hotham's arrival and reception, financial conditions of the colony, Hotham's visit to the goldfields, the affair at Eureka including the trial of prisoners, constitutional changes and responsible government, and duties and customs in Victoria. [6]

In his despatch on 18 September 1854 to Sir George Grey, the colonial secretary in the English Cabinet, Hotham played down the severity of these grievances, praising the character of the people of the goldfields, and declaring them to be devoted to order and good government. It is clear from this narrative that Hotham’s idea of good governance was markedly different from the one fought for by the men of Eureka.[7]

A draft of the speech 1855 delivered by Sir Charles Hotham to the Legislative Council on the Bill for a new constitution is held at the East Riding County Record Office. [8]

After opening the Melbourne Gasworks on 17 December 1855 Charles Hotham caught a chill and died at his Toorak home on New Year's Eve at half past twleve.[9]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Sir Charles Hotham

In June 1854 Lieutenant Governor Charles La Trobe was replaced by Sir Charles Hotham.[10] He arrived in Victoria with orders from the English Government to enforce law and order on the diggings of Victoria.[11]

In August 1854, Victorian Governor Sir Charles Hotham toured the goldfields with the encouragement of the pastoralists and the office-class, decided to increase the government's revenue by catching miners who were not paying their fees.

Governor Hotham wrote the following report to the Governor of New South Wales:

Courtesy Ballarat Heritage Services.
"I do myself the honour to inform you that, on the night of the 6th of October last, James Scobie was found murdered on the goldfields of Ballarat. As he had been last seen coming from the Eureka Hotel, suspicion fell upon the landlord, James Bentley, his wife, and John Farrell, all of whom had formerly been convicts in Van Diemen's Land, and they were accordingly taken up, and brought before the bench of magistrates at Ballarat.
The magistrates, after hearing the evidence and examining witnesses, pronounced the prisoners not guilty of the charges preferred against them and they were accordingly released.'
This decision gave great dissatisfaction to the entire digging community of Ballarat; they denounced the presiding magistrate, Mr Dewes, accused him of being connected by interest with Bentley, and broadly asserted that he had been bought over.
Infuriated with rage, a vast assemblage of diggers was soon on the ground; and notwithstanding the exertions of the magistrates, police, and a small party of military, they set fire to the hotel, sacked it, and burnt it to the ground, and with infinite difficulty the prisoners obtained safety in the camp, and escaped the summary capital punishment to which it was intended to subject them.
The knowledge of strength which they now had acquired, and the indecision and oscillation of the authorities in allowing the riot to get head, caused the diggers to hold mass meetings, use the most threatening language to the officers on the gold field, and led them to fear that an attack would be made on the Government buildings, and that they in turn might be destroyed.
On obtaining official information of these proceedings, 1 lost no time in making such dispositions as 1 concluded would enable the authorities to maintain the integrity of the law, and, within four days, 450 military and police were on the ground, commanded by an officer in whom I had confidence, and who was instructed to enforce order and quiet, support the civil authority in the arrest of the ringleaders, and to use force, whenever legally called upon to do so, without regard to the consequences which might ensue.
These dispositions, and the knowledge that the military were instructed to act, checked all further movement on the part of the diggers. Four of the supposed ringleaders were arrested and very heavy bail taken for their appearance to stand their trial. Gradually the irritation subsided, and the diggers returned to their ordinary labour; but the law officers of the Crown being of opinion that sufficient evidence did exist to criminate Bentley, his wife, and Farrell, they were again arrested, and are now in prison, awaiting their trial at the approaching assize.
The movement being now quelled, it behoved me to investigate the charges which poured in from all quarters, of general corruption on the part of the authorities of the Ballarat gold field; and, accordingly, I appointed a Board of Inquiry, composed of officers of standing and ability, and directed them to proceed to Ballarat, and ascertain if there was any foundation for these charges.
The Board report that the stipendiary magistrate, Mr Dewes, had obtained loans of money from various individuals resident at Ballarat .... They also report Sergeant Major Milne, of the police force as guilty of receiving bribes... I have directed that Mr Dewes' name be erased from the Commission of the Peace, and have requested The Attorney General to inform me whether Sergeant Major Milne can be prosecuted for receiving money illegally." [12]
Proclamation Poster

Colonial Secretary's Office Melbourne 30th November 1854

Sir, I have received instructions from the Lieutenant Governor, to express to you the great satisfaction Her Excellency feels with the conduct of the Civil Officers and the Forces under their command during the recent transactions at Ballarat . The conduct of the Military will of course be commended upon by the Resident Commissioner Ballarat. The Major General Commanding. I am further directed again to impress upon you, that it is your duty, as Resident Commissioner, to enforce all existing Laws, at the same time, it is Her Excellency’s desire that in doing so, you be careful to act calmly, firmly, and temperately- I have the honor to be Sir Your most obedient Servant Chas Hotham [13]

The Attack

Governor Charles Hotham sent two detachments of regiments of the British Army and numerous mounted police to Ballarat, and then retrospectively approved the order to attack civilians early on Sunday 03 December 1854. Hotham had reason to believe he was dealing with more than simple dissatisfaction with the gold license system. He saw signs of a rebellion against the Queen's authority which had democratic and republican aspects. this fear is expressed in his correspondence with his superior Sir George Grey the Secretary for the State for the Colonies in London. [14]

After the Eureka Stockade Hotham still feared revolution and wrote to the Governor of Tasmania requesting Military assistance in case the insurgents "mainly foreigners", might reassemble. He issued proclamations calling on citizens to assist in preserving social order, proclaimed martial order in Ballarat, and posted rewards for the escaped rebel leaders. [15]

Post 1854 Experiences


Papers and cuttings 1855-56 concerning the death of Sir Charles Hotham are held at the East Riding County Record Office. [16]

In the News

Lieutenant Governor.
The Lieutenant Governor has the painful duty of informing the Legislative Council that serious disturbances have occurred at Ballarat.
Misguided men, assembled in armed bodies, under military leaders, have intimidated and plundered the well affected, set the law at defiance, and fired on and killed some of Her Majesty's forces. Promptly to suppress this insurrection, the Lieutenant Governor, with the advice of his Executive Council, has proclaimed Martial Law, confining its execution to the district in which the outrages have been perpetrated.
The Lieutenant-Governor is aware that the population of Ballarat generally do not participate in these seditious movements, and he has adopted a course by which the wishes and interests of the well affected will, in his opinion, best be consulted. :On the support of the Legislative Council and the loyalty of the colonists he confidently relies, and trusts that the measures to which he has had recourse will, under Divine Providence, restore peace and tranquility to to the country. He has availed himself of the earliest opportunity of placing the Council in full possession of the steps he has felt it imperatively his duty to take, and will cause to be laid before them copies of Despatches and Papers on the subject. :
Government Offices,
Melbourne, 5th December, 1854.
No. 1.
Camp, Ballarat, 3rd December, 1854
Sir, I have the honour to report, for the information of the Major-General, the following details relative to a collision that took place this morning between the troops under my command and the Ballarat rebels.
The Major-General has already been made aware of the fact that a large number of ill disposed persons have for some days been openly organising, drilling, and equipping themselves, with the undisguised object of attacking Her Majesty's troops, and, if possible, subverting Government.
During the night of the 1st instant, frequent signals, were observed passing from tent to tent around the Camp, and several shots were fired over the heads of the sentries. I therefore considered it necessary on the following day to issue a public notice:— 'That no light would be allowed in the neighbourhood after eight o'clock; that no discharge of firearms would be permitted on any pretence; and that persons disobeying these orders would be fired at.' This notice produced the desired effect.
Early on the 2nd instant information reached me that the rebels were forming an entrenched camp at the Eureka Diggings, about a mile and a half from our Camp, with the avowed intention of intercepting the forces, under the Major-General's command, en route from Melbourne.
In the course of the afternoon, Mr. Commissioner Amos, in charge of the Eureka Station, arrived here, and reported that an armed party of the rebels had marched up to his Camp, taken him prisoner, and subsequently released him, but kept possession of his horse.
During the whole of that day strong parties of insurgents were parading the diggings in every direction, many of them in sight of the Camp, robbing stores, collecting arms, and forcing people to join their ranks.
I did not consider it prudent to attack them as they were not, collected, in any one spot, and the safety of the Camp would have been risked had a larger portion of tho force been with drawn. I determined, however, to attack their camp at daylight the next morning. For this purpose the troops (detailed in the margin) wore ordered to assemble at half-past two o'clock, a.m. At three o'clock I left with this force, handing over the charge of the Camp to Captain Atkinson, of the 12th regiment, with the remainder of the troops and police. H.M. Force, 30, all rank, with Lieut. Hall and Lieut. Gardyne. Mounted Police, 70, do., Sub-Inspectors Furnell, Langley, Chomely, and Lieut. Cassack. 12th Regiment, 65, do., Captain Queade and Lieut. Paul. 40th Regiment, 87, do., Captain Wise, Lieut. Bowdlor, Lieut. Richards. Foot Police, 24, do.; Sub-Inspector Garter. Total Troops — Mounted, 100; foot, 170. Accompanying us were — Mr Commissioner Amos, who acted as a guide; Messrs. Hackett, P.M., and Webster, Civil Commissary, all magistrates.
In excellent order and with perfect silence the force arrived, in about half-an-hour, in front of the intrenchment, and about three hundred yards from it, under cover of a rise of the ground. The detachments of the 12th and 40th Regiments extended in skirmishing order, each having its proper support.
Part, of the mounted force of military and police moved towards the left of their position to threaten its flank and rear, the remainder of the mounted force and the loot police were kept in reserve; we then advanced quietly towards the intrenchments, where the revolutionary flag was flying. At about one hundred and fifty yards we were received by a rather sharp and well-directed fire from the, rebels, without word or challenge on their part. Then, and not till then, I ordered the bugle to sound the 'commence firing.' For about ten minutes a heavy fire was kept up by the troops advancing, which was replied to by the rebels. During this time I brought up the infantry supports and foot police. The intrenchment was then carried, and I ordered the firing to cease. All persons found within the intrenchment were taken prisoners, and many of the fugitives were intercepted by the cavalry.
I afterwards brought the infantry, and a portion of the mounted police, in charge of the prisoners and wounded to Camp, directing the remainder of the cavalry to recover the Government Camp at the Eureka, which was about 500 yards from the place where we then stood, and which was reported to be in possession of the insurgents. They found it had been occupied by them during the night, and that it had subsequently been deserted; the whole force accordingly returned to the Camp. :The number of prisoners brought in was 12; a few of them, however, I ordered to be re leased, as I was not satisfied they had been in the engagement, although they were in the immediate neighbourhood. Several have been taken since on the charge of insurrection, which makes the number now in custody 114.
The behaviour of the troops and police, both officers and men, in this skirmish, was very good ; and whilst I hope the Major-General will be pleased to convey to His Excellency my appreciation of the conduct of the whole police force under my command, I feel it right particularly to notice the extreme steadiness of the foot police under Captain Carter, who were brought up with the supports to carry the entrenchment. I am most desirous of acknowledging the great assistance I have received in this affair, and in all the arrangements connected with my command, from Captain Pasley, R.E,, who was good enough to act as my aide-de-camp on this occasion, and who joined the skirmishers in their advance. Mr. Webster remained under fire the whole time, giving me the benefit of his services.
Mr. Hackett, the police magistrate, remained with the infantry, and Mr. Amos guided the cavalry to their position. I cannot omit from my despatch the expression of my deep regret at the dangerous wound received by Captain Wise of the 40th regiment, who, remaining at his post after getting a slight wound, fell on the inside of the intrenchment when conspicuously leading his company to the attack. Lieutenant Paul, 12th regiment, also received a severe wound, but continued to do his duty in the ranks.
The number of killed and wounded on the side of the insurgents was great, but I have no means of ascertaining it correctly; I have reason, however, to believe that, there were not less than thirty killed on the spot, and I know that many since died of their wounds; Amongst these and the persons in custody several leaders of the insurrection appear, two of whom lie dangerously, if not mortally, wounded, in hotels near the spot. The effect of this blow has been that the police now patrol in small bodies the length and breadth of the Ballarat gold fields without threats or insalts. To such of the wounded as have not been removed, I have sent medical assistance, and have caused the unclaimed dead to be taken away and buried in the Cemetery.
I have, &c.,
(Signed) J. W. THOMAS,
Captain Commanding Troops at Ballarat.
The Deputy Adjutant General,
Head Quarters.
P.S. — Annexed is the list of casualties, co pied from the surgeon's report : — Ballarat, 3rd December, 1854 List of casualties incurred by the force under the command of Captain J. W. Thomas, 40th Regiment, in the attack on the rebel camp, at Eureka, on the 3rd December, 1854 : —
12th. Regiment. — 1. Lieutenant W. H. Paul, severely wounded; gun shot wound of the hip. I. Private William Welab, mortally do.; gun shot wound in the arm and back. 2. Private Robert Adair, severely do.; gun shot wound through the hand. 3. Private John Smith, severely, do.; gun-shot wound in the thigh. 4. Private Felix Boyle, severely do.; gun-shot wound in the nose. 2 Private William Butwell, very severely do; compound fracture of the arm. 6. Private Timothy Galvin, severely do.; gun-shot wound in the neck and ear. 7. Private William French, severely do. ; gun-shot wound in the hip. 40th Regiment. — 1. Private Maloney killed; gun-shot through the head. 1. Captain H. C. Wise, dangerously, wounded ; flesh wound on right thigh, gun-shot wound through head of fibra and fibrila. 1. Private John Bryan, severely ditto ; flesh wound in neck and leg. 4. Private Henry Cottes, slightly do; gun-shot wound in the side. 3. Private William Juniper, severely do.; compound fracture of the leg by gun-shot. 4. Private Bernard O'Donnell, severely do.; gun-shot wound in the neck. 5. Private Joseph Wall, mortality do., since dead ; pike wound in the lower part of the abdomen. 6. Private Patrick Sullivan, slightly do.; gun-shot wound in the arm.
Signed, J. W. Thomas.
Captain commanding troops at Ballarat.[17]

Four Jolly Diggers - The Eureka Celebrations.
Four jolly old gentlemen were introduced to the representative of the "Echo" on Friday last by the secretary of the Eureka celebrations committee Mr Troup. They each wore the Eureka badge pinned on the lapel of the coat.
"These gentlemen have come from Morwell," said Mr Troup,"to take part in the celebrations. Allow me to introduce you to Mr Isaac Hayward. Mr David Maine. Mr John Kemp. Mr George Firmin.
Bows all round, and then there was a general conversation with so many "I remembers" in it that it was evident that memories of the past were falling thick and fast upon these four hale old pioneers, the eldest of whom is a ripe age of 80 years, and the youngest a comparative youth of 67 or so. Mr Kemp, the eldest is remarkable for his youthful appearance and cheerful demeanour.
In the roaring days of the goldfield each member of the interesting quartet followed the occupation of a digger, experiencing all the ups and downs which inevitably form part of that alluring calling. None of them made any sensational discovery, but what is more to the point, three were actual witnesses of the burning of Bentley' Hotel and all of them approve of the stand which the diggers in the stockade took against a tyrannical system of administration. There is reason to believe that Mr Kemp's box of matches helped to set Bentley's Hotel in the blaze which consumed it to ashes. There was a great surging crowd around the hotel and one of Mr Kemp's mates came alongside him and said, "Give us your matches, Jack," and not knowing at that time that they were used for the purposes of arson, Mr Kemp handed over his tin box of wax vestas, and saw them no more. Mr Hayward and Mr Maine were present at the conflagration, and the latter caught Bentley's cat as it leaped out of the flames, and, later, took it home with him to his camp as a souvenir of the tremendous occasion.
Mr Hayward had a claim near the Gravel Pits, and he saw the military stoned as they were entering the camp from the Melbourne road, a few days before the encounter. "That was an ill advised action," remarked Mr Kemp, and "It was, indeed," commented his three companions. There was no attempt at justification for that stupid attack on a body of men under strict orders not to act upon the offensive. "But," added Mr Hayward, "the diggers had a right to be excited and ndignant at the way they were treated. We had been worried out of our lives by the troopers compelling us to show our licences, and treating us like a lot of ticket-of-leave men. Beside we had many see the unfairness of paying a licence to dig in a small piece of ground when the squatters hold thousands of acres for a few pounds a year. We are the men who were making the country, and we were treated as if we were undesirable immigrants. No wonder the blood of the wilder spirits boiled under such conditions. Mr Firmin tells a sensational story of the brutality of one of the Commissioners. It appears that while the disturbances were in progress a miner named James Ralph was in trouble with the authorities. His wife went down to the camp one evening to get tidings of her husband, when one of the Commissioners came out of his tent and held a revolver at her head. "You coward." Exclaimed the woman, "that's all you're good for is to frighten women and children; you're afraid to tackle a man like my husband." The Commissioner was in a boiling rage, but he threw away his revolver, and it eventually passed into the possession of Mr Ralph it was found to be loaded in three chambers. Mr Firmin is now endeavouring to trace Ralph, and if possible, the revolver will be obtained for the Ballarat Historical Record society.
Mr Hayward had something very interesting to say about Sir Charles Hotham, and if what he was told was true the Governor's reputation is thereby cleared of the imputation that he was at last antagonistic to the diggers. When at the Custom House some years ago Mr Hayward was assured that a letter from Sir Charles Hotham to the Executive is extant, and which, in effect states that the diggers' complaints were on the whole justified, and that a conference should be held to enquire into the causes of their grievances. Mr Hayward believes that the Governor's good intentions were frustrated by the Attorney-General (Sir William Stawell. Afterwards Chief Justice) who, it appears, had no sympathy with the digging population.
Many exciting scenes were witnessed by the four pioneers we have been referring to, and they will, no doubt, prove to be valuable additions to the collection of Eureka veterans Mr Troup is gathering together for the demonstration.
Mr Maine is one of the survivors of the wreck of the London in the Bay of Biscay on January 11, 1866.[18]

See also

John Foster

Jane Hotham

Charles La Trobe

William McCrea

Robert Nickle

Further Reading

Corfield, J., Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.


  1. Gervasoni, Clare and Ford, Tina, Eureka Stockade centre Hall of Debate Kit, 1998.
  2. The East Riding County Record Office, Yorkshire, England, DDHO Hotham of Dalton Hall; DDHO/10 Sir Charles Hotham
  3. The East Riding County Record Office, Yorkshire, England, DDHO/10/1 Correspondence 1853-55
  4., sighted 07 May 2013.
  5., sighted 07 May 2013.
  6. The East Riding County Record Office, Yorkshire, England, DDHO/10/20 Letter Book
  7., sighted 07 May 2013.
  8. The East Riding County Record Office, Yorkshire, England, DDHO/10/22 Draft of Speech 1855?
  9. Gervasoni, Clare and Ford, Tina, Eureka Stockade centre Hall of Debate Kit, 1998.
  10. Supplement to the Ballarat Courier, 27 March 1998, p. 3.
  11. Gervasoni, Clare and Ford, Tina, Eureka Stockade centre Hall of Debate Kit, 1998.
  12., accesses 04 August 2013.
  13. PROV, VPRS 1189/P, Unit 30, File K54
  14. Eureka: The First Australian Republic?, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery and Public Record Office Victoria, 1997, p1.
  15. Beggs Sunter, Anne, Eureka the First Republic?, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, 1997.
  16. The East Riding County Record Office, Yorkshire, England, DDHO/10/39-43 Draft of Speech 1855?
  17. The Age, 08 January 1855.
  18. The Morwell and Yinnar Gazette, 09 December 1904.

External links